June 28, 2008

Searching for an elusive pond - but without a map, of course

INTERLOKEN TRAIL, Schuyler County, New York, USA - The kitchen painting project got put on hold for the afternoon Saturday (Thank God!) and instead, the Admiral and I got a bug to go hiking. Anything to avoid the paintbrush - especially inside the house on a humid day.

The country area around us is full of hiking trails with signs every few miles for this trail or that mountaintop or that pond or some poison-ivy-infested ridge named after somebody's cousin who fell off a horse 100 years ago.

Best to have a map, however, if you go tromping around out there. A compass wouldn't hurt either. Oh, and a flashlight. We could have used the map and compass but wisely weren't still in the woods after sunset.

We struck out for Foster's Pond mid-afternoon, a pond supposedly two miles up a trail right off a main road we drive all the time on our way to Ithaca, home of Cornell University. We had started out in the opposite direction to another pond, but were turned around by a combination of a million fresh cow pies littering the pasture and the fact that we had no idea where the pond actually was.

The new mantra: Map & compass, map & compass, map & compass, map & compass.

Beginning of Cow Pie trail

The trail we took was well marked with a small orange paint smear every 50 to 100 feet at eye level on tree trunks. It would be hard to get lost but it was not hard at all to trip over the tree roots, rocks, sticks - and slip in the mud. (My shoes are a lovely clay gray right now.) It was beautiful country, lush and very green from recent rains. The bugs were enjoying the moisture, too, and did not like it if you disturbed any leaves.

According to the directions on the trail head sign, the trail we hiked on goes for miles and miles.

But does it really go to someplace called Foster's Pond?

We can't say definitively because after hiking well past two miles, we still were not at a pond, though, of course, it was probably just around the next bend.

I told myself that for about a mile past where we thought it was.

On the boardwalk in the woods
Boardwalks in the woods

Hiking the Interloken trail
Yes, it is a Sierra Club backpack

The weather forecast for Sunday says the likelihood of thunderstorms lashing the area again is about, oh, 80 percent so we will likely stay home and study the yet-to-be-purchased trail maps before we make another attempt to find Foster's Pond - or any others. No, we never did find the pond, though the Admiral did discover one small body of water that could even lead to the missing pond.

Upstate New York needs a Palapa Joe's restaurant & bar

VALOIS, New York, USA - It was Friday night and the kitchen was torn apart for a painting project. There was plenty of food - but also plenty of paint fumes to go around and so after a few glasses of fine Niagara wine, the Admiral and I decided we should go out for dinner, rather than sit at home.

Oh Palapa Joe's of La Manzanilla - wherefore art thou?

We tossed around the names of several restaurants, all possibilities, but all more than a short hop in the car. And who wants to drive anywhere, given the price of gasoline ($4.24 a gallon and climbing).

The end result: We raided the refrigerator, microwaved quickly and retreated to the sunporch to avoid the paint smell.

But it sure wasn't Palapa Joe's.

We had sooooo much fun there this past winter & spring with parties, open mic nights, watching football. At one point, I calculated we ate there more than at home. And that doesn't even count the number of Cuba Libres, Pacificos and margaritas that were tossed back during deep intellectual discussions.

In going through my photo files, I found the shots below, but interestingly none of owner/bartender/musician/philosopher Willie. He won't be able to avoid my camera next season. Maybe I'll catch him on the guitar during one of the bar's open mic nights.

Jane Gorby's party at Palapa Joe's
Jane Gorby's going away soiree at Palapa Joe's

Palapa Joe's front door
Palapa Joe's entrada

Though sad that we couldn't have a Palapa Joe's dinner, we did make a foray to see our favorite upstate New York rock and roll band, Steve Southworth and the Rockabilly Rays who were playing at Wagner Vineyards, just a few miles up the highway.

But when we arrived we saw a lot of cars leaving the parking lot because - gasp - it turned out the band was not playing after all.

Steve Southworth had been in a car accident on his way over from home and end up in the hospital.

Steve Southworth
Steve Southworth
  • Steve's page

  • As people walked up to the door and got the news, there was a collective intake of air as they asked if he was ok.

    It turned out he was treated and released and should be back at his guitar soon.

    Steve and his Rockabilly Rays are a local legend here and play dates all over this part of Central New York. It was three years ago while dancing to Steve's music that I wrenched my knee, landing me months later in a surgical suite in California for repairs.

    Doing The Twist is off my list now.

    Perhaps with a little encouragement we can get Steve and the Rockabillys to take a Mexican vacation this winter and come to La Manzanilla for a tour. Or out to Arroyo Seco where we did build a palapa big enough for a band a lots of dancers.

    Steve and the band
    Steve Southworth and the Rockabilly Rays

    But besides band disasters and paint fumes, the weather turned decidely seasonal here.

    In other words, it's raining almost every day. And when it does - watch out...

    June 27, 2008

    Family and guests have left, the natives are all returning

    VALOIS, New York, USA - All of our family and guests have left, leaving the Admiral and I alone here at Casa Louise for the balance of the summer with a list of to-do projects that's quite impressive.

    But since most of the humanoids left, the natives - squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and deer have come back to reclaim the property.

    One doe is so tame it comes down the hill each morning as I burn the trash out back, looking to see if I throw anything green on the compost pile. A big cottontail rabbit has also taken up residence and started munching my flowers. He no doubt will take out after my vegetables soon.

    Cwazy wabbit one
    Looking for breakfast

    Rabbit & squirrel
    Squirrel and rabbit looking for chow

    The rabbits are something of a novelty here at the house.

    Last summer there were a few very tiny rabbits at the bottom of the hill, quite shy critters. This year they have grown up. And, as rabbits are wont to do, have multiplied like, well, rabbits, so that wherever we walk around the neighborhood, we are likely to spot one or two munching clover or in people's gardens.

    This is serious gun country, and so I think the crack of rifle fire I hear occasionally might be the dispatching of a rabbit, though it makes me sad to think so.

    Of course, they haven't started snacking on my tomato plants yet.

    There are also raccoons in the neighborhood, though we haven't seen one yet this summer. Those little bastardos will get into your garbage cans and make one helluva mess. Several years ago one chewed his way through the screen on the front porch to get at a plastic bag of trash. And he didn't want to leave when the Admiral discovered him awash in the rotting vegetables he spread on the floor.

    The Admiral eventually prevailed and he left - no surprise there - though the raccoon lurked around the house for the balance of the summer, hoping for a treat.

    In my reading about upstate New York mammals (trying to see if there are otters in Seneca Lake) it seems that there are still a few moose on the loose in the state, though I'm not sure I would want to meet up with one of them wandering down our hillside while I burn newspapers in the morning.

    Don't mess with Moose

    The only moose I want to meet up with is Bullwinkle.

    Bullwinkle J. Moose

    June 22, 2008

    Back in the blogosphere after the wedding

    VALOIS, New York, USA - It was a sweet wedding - what else can I say? Even the weather cooperated nicely and the champagne stayed icy cold. At least that's what I remember.

    Admiral Fox did a fine job with photos and a description at her site:
  • Wedding report
  • All I can add to that is a brief video clip (below) which includes a car chase at the end. A traditional wedding car chase...

    The lake played a big factor in the entire wedding time with rides on the Spirit of Louise, a lot of time hanging out on the dock of the San Felice (where Beth Tucker went swimming twice and I got up my courage to swim once) and even a little fishing.

    Unfortunately, after someone got done fishing, they left a fishing lure dangling from a line - a definite no-no. The lure didn't snag any fish but it did grab the Admiral's head while she walked up the ladder to disembark from the boat.

    Fishing lure removed
    Dylan removes the lure from the Admiral's hair

    Dock at the San Felice
    Dock at the San Felice

    June 11, 2008

    Ready for the wedding and ready for more boating

    VALOIS, New York, USA - It's a cliche to say that life has been a blur since we hit the ground in New York.

    So there, I said another cliche.

    But among the clean-up, paint-up, fix-up, eat-up, cook-up of getting ready for Saturday's wedding of Dustin and Cami, we did manage to get the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat launched. There was a minor miracle associated with all this: the trailer and car lights all worked.

    Anyone who has ever done much trailering knows the odds on that happening when you have a new trailer and and old car doing the pulling.

    Spirit of Louise ready for transport
    Spirit of Louise ready for transport to Seneca Lake

    Roger & Admiral on way up the lake
    Roger and the Admiral on the foredeck going up the lake

    We took a nice boat ride/tour from Watkins Glen up to Valois, using about three gallons of gas in the thrifty 35 hp Mercury engine. (We've starting to keep track of such things much more closely now.) Along the way, in the 90-degree heat, we saw some early season swimmers. I say early because the lake water is barely 60 degrees, though because it is cold, not a weed has started growing yet.

    The air however has warmed up - in the mid 90s several days and the hottest sale item at the local WalMart was not beer (though a lot of cases of beer and ice were sold this week), the hottest sale item were small window air conditioners.

    When you combine the 90-degree temperatures with 90 percent humidity, it gets, as my mother used to say ' a little sticky.'

    Little indeed.

    Early swimmers in Seneca Lake
    Swimming in Watkins Glen

    First swim
    Ready for the plunge

    We also spotted someone who has taken this converting-to-solar-power thing quite seriously. It made me wonder about dragging down more solar panels to Mexico for our Arroyo Seco compound. Electricity in Mexico is pretty expensive, so every amp-hour you can produce yourself put you ahead.

    Still, at somewhere around $400-500 per panel, I need to ponder more.

    Serious solar array
    One serious solar array

    We also took some time out to purchase a new table and chairs for the house - very vintage, very cottage furniture stuff. The table is just the kind of artifact that the Admiral's late mother used to drag home - and then try to figure out where to stuff it in the house.

    And at the same time Sylvia got to pet one of her favorite dogs here in this stretch of the state, the pet of the owners of the furniture store where we bought the set. Sometimes the dog will sing for us, though the pooch was pretty quiet this time.

    Maybe on the next furniture run.

    The singing pooch
    Just one song?

    New cottage table
    A table set even Sylvia's mother would have loved

    June 3, 2008

    Summer in Valois: Let the renovations begin!

    VALOIS, New York, USA - It wouldn't be summer if we weren't involved in some level of construction/reconstruction here at Seneca Lake.

    So far, the biggest - and probably the best improvement in the last couple of years - is the addition of a breakfast bar (Breakfast bar? Who am I kidding?) that opens up the whole kitchen area and also gives us some much needed counter space for food preparation.

    It will make a nice place to open up pizza boxes, too - my kind of food preparation.

    Countertop one
    Cousin Brett preps the area

    The project wouldn't be possible without the talents of Cousin Brett, a Valois native who works as a carpenter, plays great music and tools around Valois (and most of America) in an ancient VW Microbus painted in psychedelic colors.

    Brett also finished up the guest cabin bathroom restoration project just as we arrived last week, ensuring that the cabin will be completely ready for guests when they descend next week for the wedding.

    Countertop 3
    Nearing completion

    The countertop project was only overshadowed yesterday by going on the hunt a car for the summer. After doing some quick math, the Admiral and I determined that we could buy an inexpensive car, drive it all summer and then sell it, at a total price cheaper than we could rent a car. And although I have a decided skepticism about Jeeps in general, we bought one Monday, a 1999 Laredo with a sun roof and plenty of miles on its odometer to prove its worth. Because of quirks in New York State law, it will take us a few days to take delivery. :-(

    The fellow who sold it to us runs a small car lot in Montour Falls, part of a gas station, car repair, car inspection & car sales operation. He runs it by himself and the day before we went in, he had sold five cars - most of them Jeeps. He is so sold on Jeeps that he deals almost exclusively in them.

    Jeep from the front
    Out car shopping - for a Jeep

    While the five days since we arrived have been a blur of painting, raking, mowing and moving, we did have a nice Sunday evening interlude with a party at our amigo Brad's house - the same Brad who painted the cabin last summer and who is still quite attached to the house my late mother-in-law Louise named Treetops.

    Brad hosted about 15 people and in what has become a Valois tradition, musical instruments came out and as the level of wine in the wine jugs went down, the singing got more enthusiastic.

    Brett and Sylvia do a duet
    Brett and the Admiral entertain